Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sand Setting A Handrail

I’ve said that I don’t do architectural jobs anymore and now proceed to contradict myself.  A few weeks ago I completed a front porch handrail job.  It was made for a friend who was doing an extensive renovation of the home entrance landscape in more or less and Arts and Crafts rectilinear style.

The new front door incorporated a glass panel with an A&C rectangular grille which I used as my inspiration for the accent which would appear in the handrail jog on both sides.  I made some test pieces and sketches while waiting for the new concrete porch landing, steps and walk to be completed.  The final design involved using square hole passthroughs.  The cap rail was 1.25” square solid bar forged on the diamond to a 7/8” thickness.  The posts are 1.25” thick-wall square tube.

I worked with the concrete contractor to make sure he placed the “pop can” post pockets in the correct positions - four posts on both the north and south rail.  When the concrete was a fully set it was possible to open up the holes by tearing out the aluminum can with screwdriver and pliers.  The shop vac came in handy too.

I was able to enlist the help of a friend who runs an engineering company to help me build the railing structure.  He had a lot more experience than I in this type of work.  We took the posts to the site with a bucket of used water jet garnet abrasive sand.  As each post was set in the hole the hole was filled with the garnet sand and packed while the post was held vertical and checked with a level.

The pair of posts which incorporated the decorative infill were taken back to the shop and welded.  Then we returned to the site with the cap rail pieces and placed them and marked them for cutting.  When they were cut we held them in position and tack welded them at the site to the posts and to each other.  That made the assemblies rigid enough to return to the shop for final welding and painting.  The shop vac was used to remove the garnet sand and leave the holes clean for pouring the anchor cement.

Probably everyone who does railing knows the sand trick but it was new to me.  I had always used some kind of jig I could clamp onto but this is much simpler.  Old dog learned a new trick.

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